Volume III, Issue 2, Page 39

For all of his life, Mike Ruscio coped with the lake-effect white-outs indigenous to way-up-state New York, specifically Rochester and environs. There, they gauge the depth of the snow in yards, not feet. One day, Mike completely lost his senses and boogied with his family (wife Joscelyn and son Chase) to Florida. He wound up doing fabrication and paintwork at Phil Somers’ American Super Car (Hudson, FL) and had arrived just in time to join the crew on the V7 Twinturbo that we featured many weeks in MaxChevy. Lucky Mikey. Do eight straight months of 15-hour days. Not even enough minutes to eat a proper meal, for chrissakes, much less get with the family for some quality drag strip time! Might as well be snowed in deep.

Ask anybody who grew up with our hero and they’ll tell you that he was more or less born into the car and parts business (Ruscio’s Speed Shop, Yadadada, NY) that was run by his family. He’s a master tech, a whiz on chassis, body work, and paint. He wields an awesome air brush. He’s a stone-fool drag racer, too. We like him even more because he had the stones to violate a low-mileage, original, numbers-matching, big-block ’71 SS 4-speed car—as for deconstructing a piece of history, Mike cared not a whit. He said, “You can go to hell. I don’t care.”

This is how the story goes: “In the winter of ’81, my uncle was looking around for a pair of used snow tires. While he was in the guy’s garage, he noticed a ’71 Nova and he told my dad about it. He looked at the car and talked to the owner, who claimed the Nova wasn’t for sale. Then the guy’s mother stepped between them and declared that it was definitely for sale because the kid had a slight gambling addiction and needed to settle it before he was missing some kneecaps.”

Mike’s dad assured a small piece of his son’s future bliss for $2,000. The car was a quasi-drag racer. It still had the bench seat and the Muncie 4-speed in it. Mike was 10. His pop had the car painted. Then he shrugged a cover over it and put it on hold in the garage for a couple more years, until the time ol’ Mikey had crossed that special threshold and segued into his thirteenth year. Testosterone on the rise, Mike remembers being at a family picnic when his father announced that “we need to go for walk. I didn’t like the sound of that. He said to me, ‘You know that car in the garage?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ He said ‘Well, do you want it?’ And so it began.

For three years, he and his dad worked on the car getting it ready with a 396 and a Powerglide transmission. The day he turned 16, he’d be driving the bitch for sure. They put a new interior in it, too. Mike tooled it his entire senior year in high school, did his time at cars shows, and eventually married Joscelyn. One of his pals took him the track for the first time. Funny, but he got hooked on the spot.

“My wife and I spent a lot of time at the drag strip and after my son was born, this became our family outing. When I started, the car had the Muncie and the 396 and was running thirteen-fives. Way too slow for me. I replaced the stick with a Turbo 350. After that, I was running 12.50’s, which became slower than my liking.” Back then, Mike took his engines where he found them. He didn’t hesitate to pull the first 454 out of his daily driver pick-up!